Heart disease gene is inherited in men
It has been discovered that men can inherit heart disease, or at least an increased risk of heart disease, from their fathers.
The danger has been tracked to a specific version of the Y chromosome, which is only present in men.
Research suggests that for one in five British males this defective gene is a feature of their DNA and it has been linked to a 50 percent higher chance of developing coronary artery disease (CAD).
It is now hoped the results of the study, which was carried out by researchers from the University of Leicester in the UK, will now pave the way for preventative treatments for heart disease.
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The DNA of over 3,000 men, all of them unrelated biologically and who were taking part in three other heart disease investigations, was studied as part of the research.
The scientists discovered that 90 percent of the men were carriers of the two most common forms of the Y chromosome; haplogroup I and haplogroup R1b1b2.
It is those men with the haplogroup I that carry a 50 percent higher risk of heart disease than their peers in the study.
According to the researchers, the increased risk of heart disease could be attributed to the influence the chromosome has on the immune systems and inflammation.
"We are very excited about these findings as they put the Y chromosome on the map of genetic susceptibility to coronary artery disease,” said Dr Maciej Tomaszewski, the lead researcher.
"We wish to further analyse the human Y chromosome to find specific genes and variants that drive this association.
He added: "The major novelty of these findings is that the human Y chromosome appears to play a role in the cardiovascular system beyond its traditionally perceived determination of male sex."
The University of Leicester’s research was funded in part by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and commenting on the findings, Dr Hélène Wilson, from the BHF, said: "Coronary heart disease is the cause of heart attacks, which claim the lives of around 50,000 UK men every year.
"Lifestyle choices such as poor diet and smoking are major causes, but inherited factors carried in DNA are also part of the picture.
“The next step is to identify specifically which genes are responsible and how they might increase heart attack risk,” she added.
“This discovery could help lead to new treatments for heart disease in men, or tests that could tell men if they are at particularly high risk of a heart attack.”
Wilson continued: “One of the fascinating things about the study is that it might provide a partial explanation why Northwestern European men have more heart attacks than their counterparts in other parts of the world.”
The findings have been published in the medical journal The Lancet.
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